I often think about what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s murder meant to those responsible. I wonder what they hoped to accomplish and whether or not hate was their central motivation. At any rate, looking back on his assassination 50 years later, we have the opportunity to ensure his legacy and dreams live on through those of us who picked up the torch where he laid it down.
In carrying on his dream through us, we have to make sure we protect the rich legacy he cemented. We can't let anyone pimp his vision or words to fit a false narrative. During the height of the protests in Ferguson and Baltimore, I heard folks on Fox News assert that Dr. King would be ashamed of the demonstrations whether they were peaceful or when they turned violent. They said Dr. King would never block a sidewalk or public street and that he would be ashamed of Colin Kaepernick's protests. In reality, Dr. King was as polarizing as the Black Lives Matter movement or Colin Kaepernick is today. He sympathized with rioters and protesters understanding their actions were rooted in their resistance to oppression, violence, and disenfranchisement. He understood the language and the plight of the unheard.
It is imperative that we all study his words and work to understand his dream better and allow it to live on through us. A common mistake about Dr. King is that he only cared about issues that affected black people. When in reality, he routinely spoke out about injustices he saw globally, no matter whom they impacted. Before his murder, Dr. King reached out to Cesar Chavez to begin working on the poor people's movement, where he would unite the cause of poor people in America regardless of race, working to end unfair labor practice and eradicate income inequality. If we all understood and held true to King's words of, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere," we would all do better as we respond to the needs of humanity where ever a threat to life existed.
50 years later, black and brown bodies are devalued in America. Schools are still segregated. Income inequality, unfair labor practices, and a corrupt criminal justice system continue to fuel poverty. The bullet that took his life was also meant to kill his dream and everything he represented. We have to make sure that bullet only did damage to his body, not the soul of our movement. We have much more work to do. Progress has been incremental and slow, there have been many setbacks. But I imagine if Dr. King were alive today, he'd remind us "We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope." The work did not die 50 years ago; it had only begun.